Unreal Views

I need to apologize to my followers for the post that I put up yesterday with the same title. After I viewed the post, I realized that the photographs in the article were not up to my usual standards. For some reason I was thinking more about the technical correctness of the photographs and not enough about the visual feelings that I was trying to convey with my art. Sometimes a photograph can be technically perfect, but artistically awful. So, I went back and studied my original photographs. Then I reworked my darkroom techniques (which is now software) making sure that I was retaining the original feel of the pictures as I saw them when I took them. So, I hope you can accept my apologies.

This past February I took a much-needed short vacation to Arches National Park in Utah. I ended up shooting a lot of photographs there, so I wanted to share a few more from that trip.

Wet sisters wp
This is the Three Gossips, or Three Sisters, as they used to be called as I was heading out of the park in a driving rain.
Old juniper 2wp
Looking northeast on the Devils Garden trail on the way to Landscape Arch. Here you can see the high clouds moving in for a potential storm.

If you have never been to Arches National Park, I highly recommend it. There is truly no other place like it on this planet. The landscape is just otherworldly. If it were not for the vegetation, it would be quite easy to imagine that you are standing on another planet in another part of our galaxy. Being the sci-fi nerd that I am, I often think about the old Star Trek episodes or the Star Wars movies when I am in this place.

Lannscape arch 1 wp
This is Landscape Arch, the longest natural arch span in the world. By the time I took this shot the weather was really turning, and winter was close to gaining the upper hand here.

Not only is the landscape out of this world, but the Park’s character changes completely with the weather and the skies. One of the advantages of visiting in the winter is that the weather can change almost in an instant. In this set of photos, I have tried to select a few images to highlight the varying feel of the park in different lighting and weather scenarios.

Strange Formations 1wp
This is near the turn-off into the Windows Arch viewing area. I took this photo in the morning before it started to cloud over.

Here are a few things that you might want to consider before visiting Arches National Park. First, during the “normal” tourist months from say April through October the park is extremely crowded, and it can be difficult to find lodging in nearby Moab. The park has a wonderful campground in an area known as Devils Garden, but it is booked many months in advance. Second, during those warmer months the heat can be quite intense in the desert Southwest. Arches National Park is located above 5000 feet (1524 meters) elevation, so you want to make sure that you bring plenty of water. And, take it easy if you’re not used to hiking in the higher elevations. Between the heat and the altitude, it can be pretty easy to find yourself overcome. I have seen many folks over the years get themselves into serious trouble by simply not bringing enough water.

Strange view wp
I took this shot later in the afternoon on a trail around the backside of the Windows Arches.

I like to visit the park in the off-season because it is much less crowded, and I personally prefer hiking in cooler weather. Finding lodging in Moab is really easy as there are plenty of nice hotels. If you are an RV person, there are many wonderful RV campgrounds located near the town. One of the things that I like most about Arches is that it offers such a variety of terrain and access to that terrain. If you’re looking for hard-core adventure, you can definitely find it in the park. There are numerous trails where you will hardly see another person at certain times of the year. Take a look at a previous post I made, Solitude, and you will see what I mean.

Turret Arch sun wp
This looking upward toward Turret Arch. Notice the angry sky approaching.

On the other hand, there is plenty to see with 1/4 mile (0.4 kilometers) walks out of the many parking areas and viewpoints. Several of the images that I have taken in the last few posts about Arches, were taken right near the road. Of course, there are numerous trails that are in between super easy and super adventurous, and those trails are great for short family day hikes.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little photo tour of Arches National Park. If you’re interested take a look at a couple of my other posts about the park: Astonishing and Out of This World.

Turret Arch steps wp
Here is another view of Turret Arch with the sun in the foreground behind the building clouds.
The tower blob wp
I have no idea what this formation is called, but it is quite strange. I call it the “Blob”.
Unreal wp
More weird formations that I photographed in the earlier part of the day.
Devils Garden Fins wp
Fin formation in Devils Garden.
Windows view wp
I shot this early in my hike around the backside of the Windows Arches.
Wet Ram wp
This is the remains of an ancient collapsed arch now known as the Ram.
Behind Windows n wp
This is looking westward toward the backside of the South Window and the North Window Arches. Notice the lightning right between the arches.
Old juniper wp
Just wanted to let you know that it is indeed winter in the park. This is an old dead juniper.

11 thoughts on “Unreal Views

  1. An old photographer challenged me one time to drop my dependence on equipment and software, and go out with a box camera, the only equipment, lens, and digital enhancements being looking and “seeing.”

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    1. Very good advice. When I used to shoot slide film, there was not much manipulation. I mostly shot E-6, Fujichrome, and sometimes Kodachrome 64 or 25 if there was enough light. Slides were just pure — what you shot was what you saw, so it helped me to improve my photography. To get a good slide, the composition and exposure had to be right on.

      With the advent of digital, things have changed somewhat. The biggest advantage of digital as I see it is that one can see the image immediately — much like the old Polaroid. So, in some ways it too has helped improve my craft. But, I shoot raw files (and JPG) in my Nikon. Even with changing some basic camera settings the raw files are usually too flat with not enough clarity, color saturation or vibrancy, especially when compared to the JPG file.

      So, when I say that I am working on my “darkroom techniques”, what I really mean is that I am trying to push that raw file to really show what I saw in the viewfinder or on the viewer. As the raw files can handle (and hold) large amounts of data, there are usually some subtle manipulations that I do.

      My typical “adjustments” are tweaking up the clarity, color saturation and vibrance. Then in the JPG file, I can further fine tune the contrast and mid tones and/or shadows.

      What I was referring to in the new post comments yesterday was that when I had made my normal corrections I had not kept my original elements of the photo — the “seeing” part. As the lighting was challenging, but interesting, for many of those shots, I had over-corrected and brought the shadows, contrast and exposure too much into the “correct” by the technical definitions. But then I lost what I had seen.

      We are first and foremost artists, and photography is a craft like painting or sculpting or writing poetry (God, I could never do the last two). So, in essence what I was trying to say was that I simply needed to go back and make sure the photos I published were indeed what I “saw”.

      And if you ask me which I prefer — digital or film, I will say this quickly. Film taught me the technical side of the craft very well. But almost all of my slides are sitting in boxes — no one every sees those photos. So, what good are they? However, digital allows me to make quicker adjustments to the distinct lighting and subject conditions, so I learn as I go. And it also allows me a cost effective means to display my work, so hopefully we all benefit from that. So, I now prefer digital.

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      1. I just read th the NY Times article that you referenced above. This is fascinating. I will try to find that movie. Thanks so much Ben. Great chat. Hopefully we will bump into one another again soon. Thanks again. 🙂

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